10 Fun Ways to Exercise Your Dog

You’ve traveled this route many times. Your footsteps are on automatic pilot and your dog is tired of smelling the same patches of grass. You continue your daily walks sticking as closely to the same path like a beagle honing in on a scent because your dog needs exercise for his health and as an outlet for pent up energy. Walking is what you are supposed to do with a dog, right? Well, yes, but there’s a movement afoot that challenges the traditional ideas of what dogs and humans can do together for fun and physical conditioning. So if you and your canine companion are getting a little bored with the same activities day after day, here are some suggestions to shake up your routine.

Follow the Dog

Try this twist for your daily walks. Instead of walking your dog, have your dog walk you. Wherever she goes, you go. Think of your dog as a four-legged, furry, walking GPS that isn’t letting you know where the final destination will be. You’ll be amazed where the nose will take the two of you.

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Running with your dog is like multitasking — you and your four-legged athlete get to enjoy the great outdoors while increasing stamina and strengthen muscles. Dr. Lucy Spelman, renowned veterinarian, educator and author on domestic and wildlife animals, agrees that running with your dog is a great activity with one caveat: “Remember it’s your dog’s outing. You should be willing to stop when the dog wants to stop — to sniff and greet other dogs and people — even if that slows you down.”

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Another high-energy activity is Flyball. In this competitive sport, dogs are part of teams and the rules of the game are similar to a human relay race. Dogs race down a course, which includes 4 hurdles. At the end of the first leg sits a box with tennis balls. The dog must stomp on this box to release a ball and then return to the starting line carrying the ball while jumping the hurdles. Once he or she crosses the starting line, the next dog takes off. The goal is to be the fastest team without penalties. Some penalties include dropping the ball or a dog taking off down the course before his or her teammate crosses the starting line.

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If your dog has a lot of energy or pounds to burn off, find an agility group or class. This high-energy, running, jumping competitive sport is not only great exercise, but develops confidence and new skills.


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Not all dogs are tracking breeds, but just about any dog can participate in the sport of tracking, a competitive event for dogs and handlers. A scent trail is laid out hours before competition. Once the trail has “aged” dogs, with the encouragement of their owners, begin the work of finding an object at the end of the trail.

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A simple game of fetch can be all that is needed for your dog’s daily exercise fix. Fetch is easy to squeeze into busy schedules, as there is no need to travel far to fit in a game. A close-by park or backyard works great and on rainy days, fetch can be an indoor sport, played from the comfort of your couch.

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Group Exercise
The best forms of exercise for any animal are the activities they would naturally do. For dogs, playing with other dogs fits that definition. Dr. Spelman notes, “If you watch a group of dogs in this setting, they create their own games and expend their extra energy they way they choose.”

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Teach a New Skill
Don’t forget to exercise your dog’s brain. After puppyhood and the basic obedience commands have been taught, cognitive challenges tend to drop off. Find some silly, fun behavior to teach your dog, like high fiving or bowing on command or go for more advanced behaviors such as emergency down or command by hand signals.

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Nose work
Similar to tracking, nose work takes advantage of a dog’s innate scent capability. Training begins with simple tasks of finding a treats in a hidden box. As your dog gets better at locating objects the tasks get more challenging. Not only is nose work an excellent exercise as your dog bounds from place to place looking for the prize, but nose work also develops your dog’s focus and confidence as well.

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Free Style
If you’re a fan of Dancing With the Stars, you may want to try dancing with your dog. Based on obedience training, but with more elaborate footwork, movements are choreographed to music as you and your dog go through an original “dance” routine. Free Style also offers opportunities to strut your stuff in competition.

Taking your daily walk and following the same path isn’t such a bad idea as dogs like routine and continuity, but throwing in some new ways to work off pounds and energy and just enjoy each other will open up new opportunities to expand skills, become more confident and just have fun for you and your dog.

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Donna Davis
Donna Davis4 years ago

My Mischa needs this bad, she is fat !!!!!!!!

Christine Jones
Christine J4 years ago

I am fostering a dog who needs some TLC to improve his health before he can have surgery and be re-homed. He is unfortunately not good with other dogs due to lack of early socialization. If a dog barks at him he goes ballistic.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we come back from our walks more stressed than when we left, due to other dogs barking at him, owners letting their dogs off leash on the street, leaving the gate open with dogs in the front yard, etc.
We persevere, because we both need the mental and physical exercise, and I'm hoping to improve his relationships with other dogs in a safe, gradual manner to improve his chances of getting re-homed.

I've discovered that after a walk, if we are both tense, we can let off steam by playing with a tennis ball. My plan was to teach him how to fetch. His plan is to run around like a maniac and have me follow him. I must admit, his way is heaps more fun and burns off more stress, not to mention calories!

Just don't ask me how I'm going to be able to part with him ...

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

Thanks for the reminder of other things to do with our dogs. I am considering giving up on our walks. Too darn many irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs run the streets; any type from chihuahua to pit. Our last walk on Sunday, my dog was charged by 4 different dogs on our 2 mile walk. I was hoping walks would build her confidence but all the conflict with other dogs is not going to help her it will only hurt. We are scheduled for obedience classes which I am hoping will build her up also - exposure to dogs and people.

Ingrid P.
Ingrid Putschi5 years ago

Take your dog to school. Obedience is fun for dogs, too.

In addition, several of the sports mentioned shouldn't be attempted without good fundamentals for safety reasons. Playing with your dog is a must--but so is their education. And dogs love to learn.

Barb Hansen
Ba H5 years ago


Michelle Voelker
Michelle V5 years ago

I enjoy playing with my baby thanks for the article

Marina Tachlinski
.5 years ago

Danke für die Infos

Kerstin Strobl
Kerstin Strobl5 years ago

I like this article, thank you

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters5 years ago

All dogs are different. My previous dog was a mid sized Pomeranian, very set in his ways, after all I had him for 18 years. He would not deviate from our routine walks, certain houses had dogs, yes, he wanted to say hallo, also re visiting different smells. I tried to take him past the local shopping center, no, he sat down, I want to go this way. He loved spending a little time in front of the supermarket, he loved the attention of elderly people and also children. Some kids tried to get straight into his face, but I told them and their mother: do put the fist out first and let him sniff it. If he does not like it, walk away. He never bit anybody and was well liked.
After he went to dog heaven, I never wanted a dog again. But my daughter got a Rottweiler and I am his day care center, totally different dog all together.
He did slowly adjust, at daytime I am his carer and at times my wife did the job. But in the evening all 3 of us being together, well, that is his happy moment. I must admit, I do have an afternoon nap in the backroom, and the Rotti jumps at the opportunity and we share the pillow. He has a hip problem, so do I and we keep each other warm, he knows where I am hurting and vise versa. How can you not love a dog?

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola5 years ago

Thank you for this informative article.